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Review ❤️ Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert

March 12, 2020


Thirteen months ago, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant barely survived being abducted by a serial killer. Now hoping to leave grisly murder cases behind, she’s taken a job in her fiancé’s sleepy hometown in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York.

But as a nor’easter bears down on her new territory, Shana and fellow investigator Tim Wellington receive a call about a man missing on a private island. Shana and Tim travel to the isolated island owned by the wealthy Sinclair family to question the witnesses. They arrive to find blood on the scene and a house full of Sinclair family and friends on edge.

While Tim guesses they’re dealing with a runaway case, Shana is convinced that they have a murder on their hands. As the gale intensifies outside, she starts conducting interviews and discovers the Sinclairs and their guests are crawling with dark and dangerous secrets.

Trapped on the island by the raging storm with only Tim whose reliability is thrown into question, the increasingly restless suspects, and her own trauma-fueled flashbacks for company, Shana will have to trust the one person her abduction destroyed her faith in—herself. But time is ticking down, because if Shana’s right, a killer is in their midst and as the pressure mounts, so do the odds that they’ll strike again.

Release Date: Feb 18, 2020
Series: A Shana Merchant Novel
Book: 1
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley
Price: $13.99


After a traumatic case, former NYPD Detective Shana Merchant is now a detective in upstate New York. She and her colleague Tim Wellington are called to the scene of a missing person. Jasper Sinclair was spending the weekend with several family members on their private island and disappeared from the bedroom he was sharing with his girlfriend. Tim thinks Jasper left on his own, but Shana is convinced the wealthy young man was murdered. When a brutal rain storm prevents backup from arriving to help Shana and Tim, it’s up to the two of them to investigate on their own. In spite of their different opinions on the case, Shana and Tim are working well together until events from Shana’s past threaten the partnership and may place Shana in danger.

I had high hopes for this book which sounded like an updated Agatha Christie mystery. It starts out that way especially when Shana and Tim become stranded on the island with all of the suspects. The author does a good job of describing the isolation of being on an island in a storm, cut off from everyone else. Unfortunately, almost all of the members of the Sinclair family and their spouses and significant others are very unlikable. Nobody is trustworthy, including Shana, her fiance, and Tim. This makes the solution of the mystery hard to guess, but since I couldn’t connect with the characters, I wasn’t as invested in the story as I would have been if there were more people to root for. I don’t want to spoil the story, but there is one character who stands out as a truly good person by the end of the book and that was nice to see. Others may have been innocent of murder, but were still hard to take.

The book is hard to categorize. In spite of the Christie-like set-up, this is not a cozy mystery. It’s more of a procedural with some elements of suspense. There are clues to what really occurred, but the story gets too complicated to be able to figure out the solution. In addition to what is going on at the Sinclair compound, Shana is dealing with the traumatic incident in her past. Parts of this come to light throughout the story as Shana remembers things that happened to her. By the end of the book, the reader has a better idea of what happened to Shana but there are a lot of unanswered questions which I assume will be addressed in future books. There are some interesting tense moments in the book, but I feel there was a lot of unrealized potential with the book.

~ Christine

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